Approaching the end of November, a month and a half into the NHL’s 2021-22 season, a large enough sample size has accumulated to establish which storylines were isolated as opposed to those that will demand more of our attention the whole way through.
Some that struggled early on aren’t any longer, as others who started hot have since cooled down. All the while, the NHL’s elite are proving why that they are in a league of their own.
These are the headline-worthy stories from the games up to and including Nov. 28, that make up this week’s THW Goalie Report.
NHL Goaltending Stat Leaders
Outside of any potential future No. 1 netminder yet to make their debut this year, most everyday starters have now played at least 10 games or more in 2021-22. Of that group, these are the current leaders in wins (W), goals-against average (GAA), save percentage (SV%), shutouts (SO), and goals saved above expected per 60 (GSAx/60).
W: Cam Talbot & Jack Campbell (12)
GAA: Jack Campbell (1.64)
SV%: Jack Campbell (.946)
SO: Jacob Markström (5)
GSAx/60: Sergei Bobrovsky (1.509)
Despite the numerous games played between this and the last report, the leaderboard remains mostly unchanged. Essentially, those who have been performing best continue to.
Most impressive, Markström’s five shutouts still sit atop that list and Campbell is illustrating an unmatched ability to sustain success.
Vasilevskiy Achieves a Major Milestone
Having been drafted back in 2012, it may seem like it took Andrei Vasilevskiy sometime before he became the dominant force he’s now known to be. However, it’s not like he hasn’t been winning along the way.
In fact, since breaking into the league in 2014-15, Vasilevskiy has never had a GAA higher than 2.76 or a SV% lower than .910 throughout any respective season. Consistently maintaining those types of numbers, or better, makes it easy to see how he’s now the second-fastest goalie in NHL history to reach his 200th victory.
Not only did Vasilevskiy hit the 200-win milestone on Nov. 26 against the Seattle Kraken, but he also added another shutout to his totals that night. His second in a row, after stopping everything the Philadelphia Flyers threw at him a few days prior. He’s now posted a shutout in two or more consecutive contests six times throughout his career.
Reimer Continues to Struggle Against Toronto
The San Jose Sharks are surprising a lot of opponents this year, and much of that has to do with James Reimer. Despite a split start scenario with Adin Hill thus far throughout 2021-22, it’s Reimer’s numbers that are keeping the Sharks above water this season.
Joining the team for the second time, no one could have predicted Reimer’s resurgence. The 33-year-old currently owns a 2.12 GAA, .933 SV%, and 6.9 GSAx. Unfortunately, despite the turnaround in his play, Reimer continues to experience similar struggles against the Toronto Maple Leafs – a former team of his.
Although Reimer started against the Maple Leafs on Nov. 26, he wasn’t the one who finished it. For the fifth time in a row when facing Toronto, Reimer was pulled. Interestingly, that span includes stints with three different teams – the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and Sharks.
Driedger Spoils Florida’s Streak
Despite a career year in 2020-21, going 14-6-3 last season, the Panthers were essentially forced to expose Chris Driedger in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Their financial situation made it an easy decision, since Driedger was set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and Florida already had $10 million per season committed to Bobrovsky through 2025-26.
Driedger hasn’t yet seen the same type of workload in Seattle, with Philipp Grubauer being positioned as the Kraken’s No. 1. His early numbers weren’t helping his case, either. Through his first three appearances, Driedger was only able to stop 34 of 43 shots against for a 0.791 SV%. That pattern flipped when he played spoiler to the home streak he helped kickstart in Florida.
Fittingly, it took facing a former club for Driedger to regain his form. Stopping 33 of 34 against the Panthers on Nov. 27 helped the Kraken secure the 4-1 victory – Driedger’s first of 2021-22. Achieving a 1.75 GSAx in that contest alone helps illustrate that this was not a game he was willing to lose.
Entering Another New Month of 2021-22
With most of the league having already played through a quarter of their 2021-22 schedule, that’s enough of a sample size to suggest that most patterns will persist. It should be expected that the teams leading the way, and the athletes making it possible, will continue to perform.
That said, a new month provides an opportunity for fresh narratives. Just as we witnessed through November, with Marc-André Fleury now back to his Vezina Trophy-winning ways, expect to see some other struggles cease by the end of December.
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.